Political overdose amid election fervour (Books This Weekend)
1. Book: The New Indian Middle Class; Author: Pavan K. Varma; Publisher: Harper Collins; Pages: 101; Price: Rs. 299
The 2014 elections should be, ideally, the watershed for the middle class to make the transition from being a relatively marginalised political participant to being a factor of importance in deciding the future of India, says diplomat-author Pavan Varma in this work.
For this to happen, it must develop a definitive alternative vision of the story of India. This vision must include ideas for better and more inclusive governance, the return of ethics and idealism to politics, a sustained battle line against corruption, more equitable centre-state relations, and the strengthening of the essential multi-religious plurality of India.
To make this vision come true, the middle class must introspect and evaluate its own behaviour in the past; it should then go into the next elections in a far more vigilant state of mind and be prepared for much greater public activism through a much more intensive engagement with the issues of the day, the book contends.
2. Book: The Disrupter: Arvind Kejriwal and the Audacious Rise of the Aam Aadmi; Author: Gautam Chikermane with Soma Banerjee; Publisher: Rupa; Pages: 226; Price: Rs. 295
The meteoric rise of the Aam Aadmi Party - from inception to running the state of Delhi - in 13 months is a story with three principal strands. First, Arvind Kejriwal; iconoclast, leader and disruptor par excellence, who has dared to defy the fundamental templates of Indian politics and governance.
Second, the coalescing of a group of unprecedented diversity - a lawyer, an academic, a policy maker, a CEO, an architect and a poet, among many others - on the streets of Delhi, all bound together by a shared idea of an India that could be.
And third, the awakening of the aam aadmi, and of his realisation that he can be as active a participant and change-maker in national politics as any other.
In this book, the authors provide an in-depth, fly-on-the-wall account of how these three strands came together to create a brand new political tapestry. And how a single political party shattered the status quo; captivated the imagination of the citizenry and changed the contemporary political narrative in ways that are unthinkable, unprecedented and audacious.
3. Book: Crusader or Conspirator: Coalgate and Other Truths; Author: P.C. Parakh; Publisher: Manas Publications; Pages: 288; Price: Rs. 530
In 2012, a controversy over allocation of coal blocks to private companies rocked the country. The government's finance watchdog - the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) - found the government had picked favourites and avoided open and competitive bidding, which would have generated far more revenue for a cash-starved state. The CAG concluded that India had lost Rs.1.86 lakh crore (over $30 billion) in the process, the benefits going to the private companies. It was the biggest recorded scam in India's history.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India's premier investigation agency, then filed an FIR against the top officer in the coal ministry at the time - its secretary P.C Parakh - and industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla. Parakh had earned a fine reputation for ability and integrity in over three decades as a civil servant. His stint as the top bureaucrat in the coal ministry was his last posting in a sterling career. The FIR outraged the civil service and corporate India and was widely condemned by the country's intelligentsia.
The book isn't just about the coal scam. It is also about working with some of the biggest Indian politicians like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Shibu Soren and Mamata Banerjee. It is an account that startles with never-before revealed information.
4. Book: Anticipating India: The Best of National Interest; Author: Shekhar Gupta; Publisher: Harper Collins; Pages: 516; Price: 799
How many in a Mumbai room full of Hermes ties and finance whizkids are Dalits? What if Mahesh Bhatt's son, David Headley's friend, had been a Muslim? Why is Delhi getting better as a city and Mumbai going downhill?
When did the Congress first start shrinking its prime minister? When did it become clear that Narendra Modi would take over the BJP? What does an angry Arvind Kejriwal have to say about us?
This book interprets everything from the successes and failings of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh to the ascent of Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal, from the forces that have deepened Indian federalism and constitutionalism to the public mood that keeps a check on excess use of political power.
(Posted on 18-04-2014)